Exodus 10:1-2 In the eighth plague God follows his command to go to Pharaoh with an explanation that was for the benefit of Moses and the Israel throughout their generations. God reminds Moses and all future generations, that Pharaoh’s intransigence was His doing and that there was a reason behind it. The reason is stated in v. 2, “that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them.” Moses and future generations of Jews and eventually Gentiles have been provided with the wonderful story of redemption to be told their children and grandchildren. This story was not for their entertainment but that they would understand who God the significance of His covenant. That “they may know that I am the LORD.” What God did to Pharaoh and Egypt and their gods was to show how powerless and helpless they really were and to expose their pride as empty arrogance.
Exodus 10:3 – While God’s instructions were given to Moses, Aaron was involved as well as we’re reminded here. Moses asks Pharaoh “how long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” This is a question we must all answer. When we willingly acknowledge God’s sovereignty over us and everything that comes into our lives, we begin to align ourselves with God’s created order. When people do not acknowledge the one true God as their Lord, they are in rebellion against their very nature and eventually must be taught who is Lord of all creation. The Bible teaches that everyone will acknowledge the lordship of the only God; the Egyptians would acknowledge it reluctantly, through the plagues. They had to demonstrate their humility before him, which is what “humble yourself before me” requires. Arrogance and pride, not humility and submission, was the Egyptian attitude toward God since the time of the “king who did not know about Joseph” (Exodus 10:1:8). Because of God’s determination to be acknowledged by his creation the Egyptians didn’t stand a chance of holding on to their prideful stance in oppressing the Israel. The only question was how long they would resist. Since they had been unwilling to humble themselves, they would now be humbled by the Lord.
Exodus 10:4–6 These verses describe the severity of the coming plague for the benefit of Pharaoh and his court advisors. The plague of hail the coming plague of locusts were a “one-two punch” to knock out the Egyptian agrarian economy introduced by the conditional “if you refuse to let them go.” The next plague would cause the remaining crops to be destroyed through a siege of locusts covering Egypt so thick that ground would not be visible. They would not only devour any crops left after the hail but would infest the Egyptian homes. This plague would be without parallel in Egypt’s history.
Exodus 10:7 Pharaoh’s advisors told him that Moses was a snare to “us,” meaning all the Egyptians. The same expression occurs repeatedly throughout the Old Testament and refers to the worship of idols entrapping and enslaving. The Egyptian officials were saying that Moses had caused the Egyptians to lose their freedom and trapped them in a situation they didn’t want to be in. The irony is apparent: those who enslaved Israel, denying them their freedom, were now enslaved themselves. They were being held against their will by their opponent. It was not Moses who had ensnared them but God, as a punishment for the “snaring” of Israel. The officials wanted to surrender to the Lord’s demands and let His people go. Their motive was not justice or compassion; they recognized what Pharaoh did not, that Egypt was being ruined and letting Israel go would benefit the nation. Pharaoh had been shielded from most of the pain associated with the plagues. But his advisors lived among the people and felt what they were feeling. It may have been difficult to speak to Pharaoh of the “ruin” of Egypt, but they had come to the point where there was no option for them but to help him understand just how bad things had deteriorated. Pharaoh still did not see or understand what they did, and he resisted their pleas.
Exodus 10:8-10 The wording here shows a partial yielding by Pharaoh. He was willing to let some go to worship the Lord their God. This was the reason Moses and Aaron were called back to the court. Pharaoh’s questions show he is bargaining, trying to restrict the full release of Israel. He has not really learned that his arms are too short to box with God. Moses’ response was essentially “we will all go.” Moses stuck to his position, while he was tactful, he was firm. Pharaoh was responding sarcastically “only if God will make me let you go. The proof of this is in his final statement “you have some evil purpose in mind”.
Exodus 10:11 Pharaoh said, “You have been asking to worship the Lord, I give you permission”. Yes, it is what they have been asking but not with restrictions. Pharaoh did not understand that Israel included all, not just the men. Worship would not be possible if they did not know how to worship. They needed to receive God’s Law, build the tabernacle and install priests. This is what was involved in worship and all that was outlined in the Covenant at Sinai. Pharaoh did not accept Moses’ demand, and he saw from Moses’ response that Moses would not accept a men-only sacrifice departure. Since Pharaoh could not get his way, in anger Moses and Aaron were removed from his presence.
Exodus 10:12 As in the prior plague Moses was to hold up God’s staff which symbolized the arm of God. In doing so what had remained of plant, vegetable and fruit life was consumed by the locusts. God likely did not create new locusts but caused existing locusts to leave a location where they had bred somewhere to the east and God moved them by a special wind to Egypt. Locusts are grasshoppers but become locusts when they swarm in large numbers. Nearly all the crops of Egypt are grown within sight of the Nile or its irrigation canals. In Exodus 10:15, we’re told that “they covered the ground until it was black” Locusts have an insatiable appetite and can eat any type of plant. No crop vegetable or fruit stood a chance against this plague. What the hail started the locusts finished. Soon Egypt would have no food, an amazing reversal of what happened during Joseph’s day (Gen 41:49).
Exodus 10:16–17 Pharaoh admits his guilt once again, and asks for forgiveness, and requests prayer for the plague to be removed. He asks Moses and Aaron to forgive him, acknowledging he was wrong, and they were right. Pharaoh saw Egypt dying because of the hailstorm and locust invasion. His words focus on death, he was beginning to get the point: the plagues were leading to death. Paul made the same kind of assertion in Rom 6:23 with his words, “The wages of sin is death.” Not every sin leads instantly to death but rather every sin moves the sinner further down the path to death. Pharaoh was catching a glimpse of this truth.
Exodus 10:18–20 Once again Moses leaves Pharaoh to pray for the end of the plague. This prayer reminds us that it is always God who controls events. God again uses the wind, changing its direction and intensity blowing them into the Red Sea. God’s removal of the locusts results in the complete absence of locusts anywhere in Egypt. With the plague over, Pharaoh again refuses to let Israel leave Egypt, just as just as the Lord said he would.
Exodus 10:21-23 To appreciate this next plague, we need to understand how darkness threatened ancient people. We travel easily at night with the aid of various forms of lighting; they on the other hand were immobilized by the darkness of nighttime unless the moon was relatively full. People who were about in the night were assumed to be criminals and typically they were. If we were to experience prolonged darkness during the day as Exodus 10:22 tells us, panic would ensue. It was a darkness that could be felt, or perhaps a darkness that would cause people to grope in the dark. The three days was probably the average duration of the plagues, but this was far more terrifying than the others. The darkness prevented travel of any kind. They were trapped in their homes until the plague ended. Again, Moses contrasts the circumstances of the Egyptians and Israel. Israel had day and night, but Egypt had only darkness not merely a night, which always contains some light, but total darkness.
Exodus 10:25–26 Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to the Lord our God”. Our livestock also must go with us. Though sacrifices and burnt offerings would be specified later in the Law (Lev 1–7), Moses and Pharaoh understood that animal sacrifices would be needed.
Exodus 10:27–29 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. He told them never to appear before him again. Moses replied, “I will never appear before you again.” His refusal to allow Israel to leave was consistent with God’s plan as revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:19. Until the terms of Exodus 4:23 were fulfilled, the death of Egypt’s firstborn males, Pharaoh would not let Israel leave Egypt. Pharaoh said the bargaining was over. He would not voluntarily allow Israel to go. Despite the pressure from his people and advisors, and the severity of the plagues, he could not bring himself to allow them to go. So, he threatened Moses with death if he came back again. Moses replied that Pharaoh had essentially predicted the future. Moses and Israel would be leaving Egypt and would never return. Israel’s suffering would end as they left Egypt. Moses did not become angry when Pharaoh acted just as God had predicted. God had not moved Pharaoh to make this death threat, it was his own idea and contemptible in three ways. It violated the immunity Moses should have enjoyed as a prophet of God. (1) Moses spoke as a spokesperson for God, Pharaoh’s argument was with God, not Moses. (2) It was mean-spirited and vindictive. Pharaoh had been given opportunity after opportunity to allow Israel to leave as he had promised over and over again, but he repeatedly broke his word. Instead of acknowledging his own failure to keep his word, he accused Moses of doing something worthy of death! (3) It was cowardly. Pharaoh directed his anger at Israel believing they were Egypt’s enemies. Pharaoh was trying to get rid of the Lord’s demands by preventing His messenger from bringing them to him.